E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Penstemon confertus Douglas ex Lindl.
yellow penstemon
Plantaginaceae (Mare's-tail family)
(Previously in Scrophulariaceae)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Virginia Skilton  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #3952)

E-Flora BC Static Map
Distribution of Penstemon confertus
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from a woody stem-base, smooth throughout except for the flowers, or minutely hairy on the stems especially above; often with short leafy mat-forming stems at the base, the flowering stems usually several, clumped, ascending to erect but often decumbent-based, 10-50 cm tall, slender.
Basal leaves stalked, lanceolate to spoon-shaped, 3-10 cm long, entire, occasionally poorly developed; stem leaves opposite, narrowly lanceolate, entire, unstalked, slightly smaller than the basal leaves.
Inflorescence a slender terminal cluster, interrupted below, of 2 to 10 dense whorls of several stalked flowers, the bracts with papery and ragged margins; corollas narrowly tubular, 0.8-1.2 cm long, sulphur-yellow to yellowish-white, 2-lipped, smooth on the outside, hairy within at the throat; calyces 3-5 mm long, 5-lobed, the lobes lanceolate to oblong, abruptly long-pointy-tipped, the margins broad-papery and ragged; fertile stamens 4, the anthers smooth; sterile stamen about as long as the fertile stamens, brownish-bearded at its expanded tip.
Capsules, 4-5 mm long; seeds numerous, 0.5-1 mm long.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Spring to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to dry meadows, grassy openings and open forests in the steppe and montane zones; frequent in S BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; E to MB and S to MT, ID and OR.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

The yellow penstemon usually has yellow flowers, but some plants and populations have pink flowers. One such population has been found at the top of Yahk Mountain, east of Creston. There are several species of small-flowered penstemons in British Columbia that are rather similar and that are usually constant in flower colour but have some varieties or populations that differ. The genetic and evolutionary significance of this has not been studied, but it should be interesting from the point of view of pollination ecology, possible hybridization, and evolutionary diversification. For example, the unusual flower colours might be the result of adaptation to different pollination insects, or they might allow the insects to discriminate between the different populations. Or perhaps the unusual flower colours are the result of hybridization between species that have flowers of a different colour.

Source: Griffiths and Ganders 1983. Wildflower Genetics: A field guide for British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.


Ecological Framework for Penstemon confertus

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 365 1287 2563
Slope Gradient (%) 0 27 101
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
5 197 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 2 5
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(6), BG(1), ESSF(154), ICH(2), IDF(223), IMA(7), MH(1), MS(101), PP(117)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

Species References

Griffiths, Anthony F. and Fred R. Ganders. 1983. Wildflower Genetics: A Field Guide for British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Flight Press, Vancouver.

General References